Scores of Minnesotans are answering the call for help in North Carolina, where Hurricane Dorian made landfall Friday.
More than 60 Red Cross volunteers from Minnesota were deployed to the Tar Heel State and other places in the southeastern United States hit by the Category 1 storm that unleashed ferocious winds and flooding that damaged hundreds of homes and businesses.
And in the coming days, as many as 40 volunteers from Nechama, a Jewish national disaster relief group based in Burnsville, will head out to help with debris cleanup.
“It’s like watching a billion-dollar corporation stand up within hours,” Pj Doyle, a Red Cross volunteer from Minneapolis, said of the sudden influx of volunteers who are mounting the relief operation.
Doyle, 73, arrived in Raleigh, N.C., on Friday and will spend the next two to three weeks learning from local officials what victims need and helping to coordinate efforts with myriad agencies providing goods and services.
“It’s a rewarding way to volunteer and spend your time,” she said, even though it means long days. “You see the devastation and challenges [victims and local authorities] are facing. It’s overwhelming, but you deal with one person at a time and you make a difference for that person.”
Doyle will help arrange everything from dispensing food and medical supplies to the more than 70 shelters in operation to coordinating communications with mayors and emergency management personnel. There are big tasks and seemingly small but personal tasks, such as finding a blanket to calm a child with autism, she said.
“Moments like that make it all worth it,” said Doyle, who was also in North Carolina after Hurricane Florence last year.
A caravan of 15 ambulances carrying a 36-member team of paramedics, medical technicians and support personnel from the metro area and west-central Minnesota left for Raleigh on Friday morning. The team was slated to take on an array of duties over the next two weeks — from routine medical runs to transferring patients from damaged care facilities to treating victims in hard-hit areas.
But the ambulance teams only made it to Wisconsin Dells before they were called back Friday when North Carolina withdrew its emergency request for resources and personnel.
David Kaplan, executive director of Nechama, said most of his team will arrive in about a week to “muck and gut” homes damaged by floodwaters. They also will be putting tarps on roofs and hauling away debris.
“We’ll get our hands dirty every day,” he said. “We will get people on their feet.”
Doyle, honored locally with the Red Cross’ Distinguished Volunteer Leader of the Year Award in 2017, isn’t surprised Minnesotans are helping.
“A lot of Minnesotans are generous,” she said.
Carrie Carlson-Guest, a Red Cross spokeswoman in Minneapolis, said those who can’t go to North Carolina can still help. She said there is huge need for people to give blood. Donors can register at redcrossblood.org. She said cash donations help buy items ranging from food to medication to neighborhood cleanup kits.
Staff writer Kelly Smith contributed to this report.